Les Week-Ends-Solidaires (Weekend of Solidarity)
The “Weekends of Solidarity” were organised in response to the destruction caused by the storm “Alex” in France in 2020. On the 2nd of October, the storm hit the Alpes-Maritimes region and caused severe flooding. Buildings, bridges and roads were badly damaged.
Gil Marsalla, a show producer from Nice, and his partner Philippe Roustan were shaken by the flood disaster and its impact on their surroundings, so they decided to put their knowledge and logistics at the disposal of the victims and the reconstruction effort. Using their professional experience, they set up a network of partners from whom they collected donations and tools. They then used social media to recruit volunteers to help with the reconstruction. In this way, the Weekends of Solidarity created the phenomenon of the reconstruction days. Every Wednesday, participants can sign up for the Saturday’s work in response to a call on social media. It is up to them whether they want to help once or several times. Volunteers must be of legal age, but no previous experience is required. The specificity and strength of the action lies in the number of committed volunteers and the diversity of their professional profiles (teachers, engineers, hoteliers, carpenters, bricklayers, nurses, businessmen…). Volunteers arrive in waves and take the project from site to completion. Through their diverse backgrounds and the use of site supervisors, the organisation is able to offer skills such as bridge building, gardening, painting, mobile home construction, access road construction, concrete work and more.
Those affected by the storm can turn to the organisation for help in rebuilding. The aim of the founders of “Weekends of Solidarity” is to provide long-term help for all labour-intensive work by bringing together volunteers and those affected by Storm Alex. By creating a synergy on the building site, the aim is to help those affected to rebuild, to give them hope and to enable them to lead a normal life. Therefore, they not only help on the construction sites, but also participate in other events such as fundraising runs, Christmas surprises and gifts for the affected children and much more.
Similar offers exist in other regions such as “resilient Lismore” in Australia (https://www.floodhelpnr.com.au/) or the “all hands and hearts” action (https://www.allhandsandhearts.org/). Often, after the first wave of helpers, the offers decrease sharply, leaving the affected people alone with the long-term clean-up work. The challenge is not only to organise the help and to find the volunteers, but also to recruit new volunteers and to motivate the existing ones.
After the storm while the authorities were focused on the reconstruction of infrastructure, citizens and businesses had to organise the reconstruction of their homes and property themselves. Even if they receive financial support from the authorities for reconstruction, which is often not available or not enough, they have to organise the reconstruction themselves and find enough workers and professionals to rebuild their homes. Solidarity weekends fill this gap. They also show the victims that they are not alone and that their losses are not forgotten, giving them hope.
To create such an effective action, enough partners must be found to donate money and tools. In addition, the calls on social media have to gain enough reach and people have to be motivated enough to get involved in their free time.